The phrase “Jewish American Princess” is often used as a derogatory slur, but author Isabel Rose seeks to reclaim the phrase by offering an enjoyable look at New York’s Jewish society in her debut novel, “The J.A.P. Chronicles.” She does little to debunk stereotypes but does show that wealthy Jewish women do not all fit into one, homogenous mold. Since the novel takes place in an insular community, it focuses more on the “Princess” aspect than any concept of “Jewish-ness” or contact with the non-Jewish world.

The structure of the book is similar to Candace Bushnell’s “Four Blondes,” with chapters for each of the respective Princesses. It begins and ends with Ali, a successful filmmaker who attends a summer camp reunion and decides to research the adult lives of the girls who made her life so miserable. When she sees the different and often tragic life directions that her childhood tormentors have taken, the power of schadenfreude finally heals her old wounds.

As a renowned playwright and songwriter, Rose has powerful literary credentials. Likewise, it’s somewhat perplexing that she decided to enter the vacuous world of “chick lit,” but she does a fine job of detailing the angst brought upon by unwaxed eyebrows and the search for the perfect Vera Wang wedding dress. And to make sure readers don’t end up despising her surgically altered and Manolo Blahnik-clad characters, Rose subjects them to a disturbing gauntlet of eating disorders, child abuse and destructive relationships. These requisite thematic elements give the story a smooth balance and the characters more psychological depth.

Rose’s skillful plotting makes “The J.A.P. Chronicles” a showcase for her talent and worldly experience. Her writing, although clever and amusing, is never condescending thanks to her a real love for the characters she has created. Her tale of Ali and her former bunkmates is a thoroughly enjoyable read that could become a favorite with both “J.A.P.s” and “shiksas” alike.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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